Mitch Daniels: Direct Populist Anger Towards Teachers
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Mar 09, 2010 at 12:09:40 PM EST
Indiana's GOP Governor Mitch Daniels has been the talk of the town in Washington as a potential 2012 White House aspirant, a seemingly can-do Republican among a group of ideologues. One big problem with this meme: Daniels is a pretty fierce conservative ideologue. (Another is that he was a key member of the Bush economic team as head of the Office of Management and Budget.) Here's Ben Smith, writing under the headline "Daniels' target: Greedy ... teachers?":
Some of the anger out there now, he said, is directed at "not just Wall Street or overpaid corporate CEOs but government employees and their unions."
Public education, he said, used to be "the bloody shirt of American politics," a kind of conversation stopper that could be invoked as a way of saying if you want cuts, "you hate children." Not anymore, he said, putting himself in the shoes of a voter who says, "The teacher next door I just figured out makes a lot more than I do but doesn't work all year."
Let's go to the actual numbers to see if Daniels is in fact correct in his assessment that Americans are just as angry at teacher pay as they are at CEO pay.
The latest data I could find on CEO compensation come from 2007, before the Great Recession, but they are nevertheless instructive. In June of that year, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey asked Americans, "In general, do you think most CEO's of large American companies are compensated too much, too little, or just about the right amount?" A whopping 81 percent of respondents said "too much"; just 1 percent said "too little"; and a paltry 14 percent said "just right".
Compare these numbers to those on teacher pay. A January 2010 poll from CBS News asked Americans, "As far as you know, do you think, on average, public school teachers in this country are paid too much, too little, or about the right amount?" The numbers are close to a mirror opposite of those on CEO pay. Fully two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) said public school teachers are not paid enough, while a quarter (24 percent) said they are paid about right. A mere 4 percent said public school teachers are paid too much.
Usually, when a politician lines himself up with a 4 percent minority of the public on the issue, he is not treated as being within the mainstream of American politics. Then again, I'm not holding my breath for the point at which the Beltway media stops fawning over Daniels.